I turn 27 today – I’m sure time will continue to go by faster than I’d like.
When you’re in the twilight of your life I wonder if you wake up and read a few chapters of a book and then the air heavies and you walk outside and just like that, the day is gone and you go to bed. I wonder if life becomes just like those high-speed shots on the Discovery channel where a thunderhead accumulates from wisps of temperature and darkens and roils into a black presence with silver veins before it empties itself out onto the world and vanishes – threaded into the wind again.
I was in Washington DC a month ago sitting in a hotel lobby watching people come down the escalators. I thought about what they were descending into. For all I knew, the most important thing in their entire life could have just happened to them. The squinted focus or the red-faced smile could have told me they were never going to be the same. I wonder how many times we see people in moments like that and have no clue. I wonder how many times our whole lives shifted in an instant and we didn’t know it either. We feign interest in the world around us but I really think we’re after that one thing that’s going to completely change us – all of the time. The problem is that we ask for it, we yearn for it and we dream about it and then when we get it, it’s not what we wished for so we wish for something else. It’s not good enough somehow. So we keep worshiping that illusion of transition.
It’s sometimes those small and important shifts, the moments that carve another notch into our bones, that we fail to recognize – and then we scramble for them when we think we’ve been missing out on life for a while. I keep realizing and forgetting and re-realizing that there’s nothing but now. But this desire persists to trap the best moments of living and keep them in the pantry, like jars of pickled vegetables, at the ready for a time when I need to remember the answers –
when I need it all to make sense.
And sometimes the notches in your bones aren’t what you wanted them to be and sometimes they are. I’m starting to see that the trouble is we believe all of those experiences and pieces of life to which we’re entitled are far away from us – something we’re not going to attain unless random events match up just right.
In college after a successful campaign, I said to the crowd that we just experienced one of the few times in life that we get to be a part of something larger than ourselves. Later that year at my graduation dinner, I told my family and friends that I was wrong in saying that – we get to be a part of something larger than ourselves every day. And there’s no reminder or piece of scripture or charm that’s going to help us appreciate it all the time. We just won’t do it. But I think that larger thing persists inside of us whether we know it or not.
I’ve been working on a screenplay about a guy who just can’t seem to settle down – he’s got this Peter Pan syndrome he’s not ready to get rid of. There’s a point where the father of the woman he divorced confronts him at the gas station:
Some day you’re going to have to stop bastardizing relationships and experiences because they might yield a story. At some point you’re going to have to let people in and you’re going to have to let them hurt you, son. At some point, you’re going to have to let experiences stand on their own and mean what they mean without trying to edit them and make them mean anything at all.
I don’t think we have to slow down and stop searching when we start to feel uncomfortable or when we want security or when we get closer to our thirties. But what I’m trying to say is I think there comes a point where we have to realize that the adventure – the story – the thing we’ve been chasing through college towns, down European streets and across the rolling prairie – isn’t as far away as we think.
Right before Felix Baumgartner jumped out of space three days ago, he said:
I wish you could see what I can see. Sometimes you have to get up really high to understand how small you are. I’m going home now.
Maybe I need to accept that the world is spinning a little faster than I realize – and while there’s this whole universe, there also has to be a home to go back to. A home within myself, I think.
I wish you could see what I can see – a few books, a Whataburger cup and my car keys rest on the kitchen table my father grew up eating breakfast on. The traffic lights on 45th street outside my window just changed to green and I’ve got one more cup of coffee to drink before I walk a few blocks for breakfast.